A few days ago, Noam Neusner wrote an article about synagogue membership in The Forward. Any article that stimulates good thinking about this serious issue is welcome, so first thanks to Neusner for starting the conversation. But, Neusner’s main premise is fundamentally flawed. There is nothing that stops synagogues from adopting an entrepreneurial culture now! Many existing programs, services and activities that synagogues offer could be made more relevant, spiritual and inspirational without spending one “zuz” more. Fresh ideas and an open culture don’t cost money. As some congregations are learning, they just require courage and risk.
Want to make your congregation feel warm and welcoming? What about doing feature videos on the wonderful acts of volunteer service that members do within and outside of the congregation? Want to increase the number of learning experiences available for adults? Invite members who majored in Jewish studies while in college to delve into an area of interest and then give them a few pointers on how to teach adults. Want to create an ongoing, unbeatable multi-generational experience? Find someone who knows how to lead a band and create a congregational band that plays Jewish music. These are just a few easy examples of how you can use existing resources to align activities with things that matter to congregants and deepen personal relationships. And they don’t cost a “zuz” more!
Rabbi Hayim Herring